A quick post, today, before I cycle back to the boat to get ready for the Bastard English Session. It’s a folk music session in our local pub, which also happens to be where we’re having our wedding next year. Everyone gets together and plays folk music and sings pop songs and gets drunk and rowdy in the best possible way. Alright, so I can’t play any instruments, but I can definitely drink wine and sing along raucously.

So, yes: things to do, places to be, all of the utmost importance. I hope you all have similarly enjoyable Friday nights planned.

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I’ve mentioned this pie, very briefly, before. It’s my mother’s recipe, although I have no idea where she got it originally, and I have adapted it a bit here. I became absolutely obsessed with it as a teenager, and requested it over and over again. I don’t know why, because it sounds – and looks – like such a humble dish, but for some reason I found it irresistibly delicious.

Funnily enough, even though I have had the recipe for years, this is the first time I have actually made it myself. I’d never quite gotten around to it, and this was at least in part because I was worried it wouldn’t live up to my memories. I thought it wouldn’t taste as good as I remembered.

Luckily, these fears were unfounded. See this massive pie? I ate 4/5 of it. Not in one sitting, I might add, but… it didn’t take me long, let’s put it that way. James had some too, and although I think he liked it, he certainly wasn’t as madly obsessed with it as I am. So, while I am sure you will enjoy it if you do decide to make it, please bear in mind that the crazy dedication to it is unique to me, and it’s not an inherently magical pie.

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Notes: Is this healthy? I don’t know. I think the filling is healthy – anything full of that much spinach has to be healthy, right? – but that may be negated by the fact that it’s smothered in pastry. It keeps very well for a couple of days in the fridge, and the filling can be frozen. Feel free to use whatever savoury shortcrust recipe you like.

This pie could serve 5-6 people, as long as one of those people isn’t me.

Ingredients:

for the pastry (this makes enough for a base, lid, and decorations – if you only want a lid, halve the quantities) 

500g plain flour
big pinch of salt
280g chilled butter
3 large egg yolks
6 tbsp chilled water

for the filling

175g red lentils
450ml water
800g fresh spinach, washed and shredded
250g cottage cheese
25g butter
15g plain flour
300ml milk
sprig of thyme
bay leaf
¼ tsp grated nutmeg

Method:

  1. First, make your pastry. I am a lazy heathen and make it in the food processor. Put your flour and salt in the food processor. Cut your cold butter into little pieces and sprinkle them on top of the flour. Pulse in the food processor briefly until your get a breadcrumb texture.
  2. Beat your egg yolks with 3 tbsp of the water, drizzle over the dry mixture, then pulse to combine. The mixture should start to come together, but if it doesn’t, keep adding the water until it does. Don’t let it get too wet. Tip the pastry out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead it briefly until it comes together. Shape it into a thick disc, wrap in clingfilm, and chill in the fridge for half an hour.
  3. Get on with making your filling. Put your lentils and water into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer gently for 10-15 minutes, or until the lentils have absorbed all the water and gone soft. Beat into a purée.
  4. Lightly cook your spinach however you like – you could put it in a colander and tip a kettle of boiling water over it, or nuke it in the microwave for two minutes, or cook it gently on the hob. Put the spinach in your biggest pan – I use a wok – and mix in the lentil purée and cottage cheese.
  5. You then need to make a basic sauce, which makes the mixture thick and creamy. Melt the butter in a saucepan, tip the flour in, and whisk it over a low heat for around three minutes to cook the flour out and make a roux. Gradually pour the milk into the pan, whisking all the while. It will initially go lumpy, but then smooth out. Add the herbs, nutmeg, and some salt and pepper. Gently bring the sauce to the boil and thicken. Mix the sauce with the spinach mixture. Leave it to cool and thicken.
  6. Preheat the oven to 200C/ 180C fan/ gas 6. Get the pastry out of the fridge and divide it into two pieces, one slightly bigger. Use the bigger one to line a pie dish, and pop the other half back into the fridge for now. Blind bake your pastry for fifteen minutes, and then remove whatever weights you’ve used and give it five more minutes. Your pastry should now be dry, sandy, and very lightly coloured.
  7. Tip your filling into the pastry case. Roll out the other half of the pastry and use it as a lid. Save scraps for decorations, if you’re feeling fancy. Brush the pastry with a bit of milk or the eggwhites you have leftover if you like, for colour.
  8. Bake your pie for around 30 minutes, or until the pastry is dry and golden.